An alternative look at life in the Land of the Rising Sun, coming from its southernmost prefecture, the island of Okinawa.
Posted By Dave on July 8th, 2014


Those who have known me a while will know that I just about kept my body shape in control (mainly in Okinawa through sweating generally due to the heat and humidity) or because of walking so much with my car dying.  It definitely wasn’t due to exercise though!  But after a couple of months of being back in England […]


Archive for July, 2012

Police Finally Admit Bullying Caused Suicide of 13-Year Old

Posted By Dave on July 21st, 2012

I just come to Starbucks to relax with a copy of the Daily Yomiuri to catch up with the week’s news, and 30 minutes later I’m logging into my site because of a story I’ve read.  As you read I’m sure you’ll understand why I was compelled to write.

The story itself goes back to October of last year, although the origins of it are some time before that.  The place is a 14th floor apartment in Otsu City, Shiga prefecture in Japan.  A 13-year old junior high school boy leaps to his death from the balcony one evening, after finally taking more than he could handle.

An initial investigation into the suicide found instances of severe bullying of the boy by 3 other students.  Some of the things the boy had been subjected to by the 3 other students included:

  • Being beaten while held, and burned with cigarette butts.
  • Being forced to give them money and a PIN number to a bank account.
  • Being forced to practice committing suicide repeatedly while they watched.
  • Being forced to shoplift for them.
  • Having his property and school books ripped up and damaged by them.

Before he died one of his last acts was to send voicemail messages to the 3 that had bullied him, saying simply, “I am going to die”.  The reply from one of them was just as simple.  “You should die”.  In addition, it was also said that the teachers had been told about the bullying of this boy occurring, but had done nothing.  To pretty much everyone, it was clear that the actions of these 3 students had driven the boy to his death.  To everyone it seems, except the police.

Three times the father had gone to the police filing reports that his son had died as a result of bullying, and three times the police had refused to accept his reports.  Their excuse, sorry, reason, was that they said it wasn’t clear what had caused the boy’s suicide, as teachers had told them they thought the boy may have been having some problems at home too.  The teachers didn’t think the bullying was even worth mentioning.

The board of education had surveyed some of the school’s students following the suicide, and asked them about bullying.  In their initial reports though, only some of the findings were not made public (namely the forced practice suicides).  I’m guessing because the BoE was worried that it might reveal there was a big problem at the school or in the area, and force further investigation and more work for them.  In fact, it wasn’t until this story started to get more press attention both in Japan and overseas that the BoE released the full (so far as we know) results of the survey, and the police decided to accept the father’s reports.  I am guessing the latter is because the police want to be perceived as doing something.  I have no doubt that if the press hadn’t kept reporting about this story and it started to spread more that the police would have been happy to continue refusing to accept the father’s report and commence an investigation.  So they asked the 3 suspects to voluntarily come in with their parents to answer some questions.

Apparently, the boys didn’t deny anything that was accused of them, but in a statement that said “It wasn’t bullying.  It was just a prank”.  Of course – it’s normal for kids to force their classmates to practice committing suicide.  Just fun and games.  Simple open and shut case.  It was just a joke that the 13 year old boy who threw himself from his apartment balcony didn’t get the punchline of.  No remorse at all seems to be being shown by the boys, and it is because of the victim taking things too seriously that there is a problem.

And to be honest that’s probably as far as the investigation will go, especially as more than a few Japanese blogs are stating that one of the suspect’s fathers is someone the police would not want to upset.  That usually means either member of a Yakuza group, government official or a senior police officer.  The former is often flung around but wouldn’t surprise mel like father like son, maybe?  And there’s also the fact that the kids are untouchable here in Japan, even more so than in other countries.  They can shoplift, steal cars & motorbikes and then crash them, cause damage to property etc and nothing can be done because they are just children until they are 20.

Now while the teachers should take some part of the blame for what has happened, especially if they were fully aware of what was going on and simply turned a blind eye, I can understand their position.  Teachers are put under a lot of pressure from parents, and are blamed for almost every problem a student has.  If a student is caused smoking, it is because the teachers haven’t educated them well enough.  If a student is absent from school, the teachers are responsible and frequently go out to try to find them.  If bullying occurs in a school, it is down to the atmosphere the teachers have created.  Parents are removed from any responsibility in the bringing up of their child as soon as they enter.  Thus the 2 people that should be the most authoritative figures in a child’s life are no longer respected or listened to by them.  By the time a student (especially a boy, who is given much more freedom to do whatever he wants, regardless of the consequences) hits junior high school, the parents have no control at all.  And the final result can be what you have just read about here.

Now the police have said they’ll investigate, I’m pretty sure that’s the last we will hear of this story.  Everything will be forgotten about until the next bullying-caused suicide in a year or so’s time, when it will be brought to the public’s eye again before once again fading away.  It’s a sad state of affairs, but is another one of those situations you just don’t see changing any time soon.

The Japanese PM Roundabout

Posted By Dave on July 9th, 2012

Well 12 months has almost passed so it’s just about time for Japan to elect it’s next annual Prime Minister.  If you keep up to date with this site (not difficult given the pitiful number of updates I’ve been producing recently) or with things happening in Japan, you have to laugh at the state of politics here.  Well, it’s either laugh or cry with despair.  Since the “suntanned lizard” Junichiro Koizumi (also about the only PM in recent history with any sort of personality, see right) left office in 2006, no Premier has lasted longer than 14 months in the job.

The Democratic Party of Japan took over office from the Liberal Democratic Party (different name, same old types and ideas) in 2009 and they didn’t want to break the trend, currently on their third Prime Minster.  Elections are meant to be held every 4 years, but that has been unthinkable in the last decade.  And it looks like we could be due for one in the next few months.

The ruling party, “led” by Yoshihiko Noda (see left) has been wanting to raise the level of consumption tax from it’s current 5% level up to 10%.  They are claiming it is needed for the rebuilding of northern Japan after the 2011 earthquake & tsunami, coupled with the “man-made disaster” at Fukushima.  Of course they couldn’t hold TEPCO responsible as they are a big company and line the pockets of many, so they had to get money somehow to rebuild the pachinko parlours (Japan’s most popular way of getting around its laws against gambling) that were lost.  Although it is also very possible that they decided Noda’s popularity wasn’t dropping as quickly as it should do, and so had to take drastic action.  Well, maybe not “very possible” but definitely within the realms of possibility.  A consumption tax would also be more preferable to an income-based tax rise, as the latter would most likely affect the higher earners more.  Couldn’t have that, so the consumption tax will affect all equally.

When the DPJ propsed this raising of consumption tax, the LDP fought against it.  Mainly because it was an idea from the opposition.  I did hear some arguments mentioned by LDP members, but to anyone that dabbles in logic they weren’t really substantiated.  This lack of support from the opposition upset Noda and so he tried pushing harder against the LDP to get them to agree to this rise.  They didn’t budge and the stalemate continued.  Eventually the PM came up with an ingenious ultimatum.  “If you opposition don’t support me, I’ll be forced to dissolve parliament and have a general election!”.  The noise that followed was that of 307 palms slapping against their foreheads in disbelief at what had just been said.  “OK.  Do it” was the general opposition response.  Unbelievably, Noda hadn’t been expecting this!

Since then there have been fractures in the ruling party, with a former leader leaving the DPJ along with 49 other members, and Noda’s popularity is dropping faster than Andy Murray’s chance of ever winning a Grand Slam event.  Am fully expecting an election come September, and the the prospect of yet another prime minister until late 2013.  And then it will all start again…

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